The AWFUL, Little-Known Side Effect of Waxing Your Face

Few things are worse than unsightly facial hair.  According to the Cleveland Clinic’s website, 5% to 10% of women of child-bearing age are affected.  While most commonly seen on the chin or upper lip, other areas of the body (chest, back, lower abdomen, upper legs and/or arms) may also be affected.  Whenever a female’s body goes through hormonal changes (think puberty, pregnancy, menopause), new hairs may appear.  Other causes may be more medical in nature.  Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a notorious culprit behind the excessive growth of facial hair, as are disorders of the adrenal glands or other issues with the ovaries. Certain medications may also encourage the sprouting of unwanted facial and/or body hair, specifically anabolic steroids, testosterone, glucocorticoids, cyclosporine (Sandimmune), minoxidil (Loniten, Rogaine), Danazol (Danocrine) and Phenytoin (Dilantin).  Authors of the hair removal “Bible” (Electrolysis, Thermolysis and the Blend) Arthur Ralph Hinkel, P.E.E. and Richard W. Lind, B.A., M.A. also list chronic, topical irritation (as sometimes seen while wearing a cast, for instance) and extreme emotional duress (as with female prisoners of concentration camps) as factors which promote excessive hair growth.

The good news is that excessive hair growth can be treated!  Hair removal options run the gamut from shaving and plucking to the gold standard of hair removal via laser.  Before pursuing any means of hair removal, it is absolutely imperative to seek the counsel of a physician if you believe your hair growth is excessive and/or if your periods are irregular.  Occasionally, your family doctor may refer you to an endocrinologist, a doctor who specializes in the glands of the body and the hormones they produce.  Hair removal efforts may be unsuccessful if there is an underlying medical condition.

Oftentimes, coarse, dark hairs first appear on the chin on upper lip.  Our natural temptation is to pluck them!  We may soon notice a few more hairs where initially we encountered only 2 or 3.  So, we pluck those.  Then, a few more appear.  And, we pluck.  And, so it goes until soon we have a good start on a full-on mustache with accompanying goatee!  That’s when we Google “esthetician near me” and book a waxing appointment, stat.  While waxing (or plucking) seems a reasonable, affordable and quick solution, many women do not realize they would be better off shaving.

Contrary to popular belief, repeated shaving does not cause hair to grow back thicker, darker or coarser.  However, repeated ripping of the hair from its follicle via waxing or plucking (which is essentially the same thing, when you think about it) will make hair grow back thicker, darker and coarser… and frequently, more plentiful and faster to re-grow.  Instead of solving the problem, regular waxing or plucking actually worsens the problem!  This is because the follicle sustains damage whenever a hair is removed in such forceful manner.  The body, in effort to repair this resulting damage, increases blood supply to the site.  The increased blood supply, in turn, encourages the follicle to become more firmly rooted.  Ugh.

While shaving may present a better option than waxing or plucking, many women find the idea of this distasteful.  Some women opt for depilatory creams or bleaching, either of which does not promote additional hair growth.  Still, these approaches offer only a temporary fix and must become a regular part of the self-care and beauty regimen which may already require significant time and attention.  So, what’s a hairy girl to do??

We have three words for you: Laser. Hair. Removal.  Some women make the crucial mistake of saving this approach as their last resort and final act of hair removal desperation.  For some reason, plucking, waxing, threading, sugaring, etc. all seem so benign as compared to the Big Scary Laser!  As a naturally hairy woman, I can honestly tell you the best money I have ever spent has been on laser hair removal (and electrolysis back in the day).  Does it hurt?  A little. No more than waxing, certainly.  Most patients compare the feel of each laser pulse to that of a rubber band snap accompanied by a warming sensation.  And, unless you’re treating your giraffe legs, the treatment sites are generally quite small which means the treatment is over with quickly.  Think about it…a laser treats about sixty times the amount of hair in a single pulse as opposed to plucking each hair individually (which is no way to spend your weekend).  Multiple treatments (six to eight) spaced roughly four to six weeks apart will be required for best results.  Your treatment provider will likely offer individual sessions or packages which typically represent a better value.  It is imperative to wear a high SPF sunscreen (SPF 30 minimum) while you are undergoing treatment.  Lasers will sensitize skin to the sun and direct exposure may result in complications such as lightening or darkening of the skin (which can be permanent).  Beyond that, you can expect a tiny about of puffiness and a flushed look to the skin immediately after treatment which generally subsides within 30 to 60 minutes.  The application of ice will help any such effects to disappear more quickly.

Not everyone, however, is a candidate for laser hair removal.  If the troublesome hairs are gray, white, blonde or red, so sorry.  Hairs of those colors simply lack the necessary amount of pigment required for successful treatment via laser.  But, don’t despair!  We have another option for you…. keep reading below.  Have a sun tan?  Forget about it, at least until your tan has faded.  Laser burns are more common in tanned skin.  Otherwise, you may very well be a good candidate.  Given advances in laser technology, those with darker ethnic skin are now frequently able to experience the same successful treatment enjoyed by their paler sisters.

“What about those of us who are gray/white, blonde or redheads?  We have goat whiskers, too!” It may be more old-school, but electrolysis is the perfect solution for those individuals.  Electrolysis is effective on all colors of hair.  It may take a bit longer as each hair is treated individually, but it will not promote additional growth as do plucking and waxing.

So, there you have it….the dirty little secret about facial waxing!  Who knew??